76ers' Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid Refuse to let Philly Down
NBA fans are thrilled to have basketball back in action this month. Players, however, have their reservations. Not only are players worried about the potential of another COVID-19 outbreak, but some believe the return of basketball also creates a distraction from the protests of racism, social injustice, and police brutality around America.
All concerns about the NBA's restart are valid. Therefore, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, along with the Board of Governors and the Players' Union, decided to allow anybody who doesn't want to play this summer opt-out without repercussions.
At this point, it's confirmed the Philadelphia 76ers will have their entire roster (excluding the injured Zhaire Smith) traveling to Orlando, Florida, for the restart. That includes the team's two most important players, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Simmons has spent the last few months rehabbing from a critical back injury. A player in his position might've considered sitting out this summer so they could remain at one-hundred percent without risking another setback by returning earlier than expected, potentially.
But for Simmons, sitting out wasn't an option in his mind. "I don't have any problems with people who want to sit out," Simmons said last week. "Everybody's personal stuff is different, so I can't really speak for anybody else. I feel like it's my responsibility to go down there and represent Philadelphia at the highest grade I can possible. If we're all going, I'm in. I would never want [my teammates] to go down and not expect to see me there. I am all in with my team."
Simmons' fellow All-Star teammate Joel Embiid falls under the category of considering missing the NBA's restart. On Tuesday, the big man admitted that he has doubts pertaining to the NBA's plan for a return. So sitting out was an option in his mind at some point. However, like Simmons, Embiid feels a responsibility to go down to Florida and represent not only the 76ers -- but the city of Philadelphia as a whole.
"I'm not a big fan of the idea," Embiid said during a Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon. "Then again, I'm going to do my job. I'm not going to let the city down. I'm going to represent my city -- that's what I've always done -- my family, my teammates. The mindset doesn't change."
This season, Embiid, Simmons, and the Sixers will appear in their third-straight NBA Playoffs. During the previous two playoff runs, the 76ers fell short of making it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Although they've had more of a disappointing regular season in comparison to the last two, many believe that the Sixers could benefit from the in-season break and could really shock the NBA down in Orlando. Without Embiid and/or Simmons, that would be a difficult task. Now that they are both all in, though, the 76ers have a chance to turn things around this year.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twiter: @JGrasso_